Should kayakers be required to wear life jackets?

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Tuesday's Commission on Marine Resources meeting included a discussion about kayak safety. During his monthly report, the chief of marine patrol talked about the father and son who recently lost their lives during a kayak trip. That prompted a review of marine safety regulations for kayakers.

A late February kayak excursion proved deadly for Kenneth and Nicholas Rainer. The father and son both died of drowning. Neither was wearing a life jacket.

"Nobody really knows what happened in this situation. I know they had life jackets. One of them was still strapped to the kayak," said Marine Patrol Chief Walter Chataginer. "We see this more and more every day. There's more and more kayakers on this coast than there has been."

Current regulations require kayakers to have a life jacket onboard, but they're not required to wear it.

"I have one when I get in my kayak I wear, or when I'm wade fishing I wear it," said Commissioner Jimmy Taylor.

Commissioner Taylor wants the CMR to adopt a rule requiring kayakers to wear life jackets.

"It only makes sense. If you're out there, you flip over and the thing gets away from you, and you're not that good of a swimmer, you're stuck. At least with a life jacket on, you can bob up and down for awhile," said Chief Chataginer.

Chief Chataginer says not only might a life jacket save someone's life on the water, in the event of a heart attack or some other accident, it could assist recovery teams in finding the victim.

"It's a whole lot easier to see that person and assist them and get to them quicker than if they're underwater, where you can't find them," said the chief.

The marine patrol chief says another safety concern is the visibility of kayakers who may be on the water after sundown. They are required to have at least a flashlight, so other boaters can see them.

The commission must go through a formal process before adopting the life jacket regulation for kayakers. That will include a public hearing on the proposed change in rules.

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